Wet in wet

Much more like watercolour now! Less is definitely more with this digital watercolour stuff. So difficult to resist fiddling with it though – very much like learning to use real watercolours except when it all turns to mud on the iPad, you can undo :)

We are moving in the right direction and this is definitely something I’m going to continue playing around with.


This is a little illustration for the prompt angler fish + ballet set by @studioteabreak over on Twitter. See the trouble I had drawing her shoulders and head in the speed paint below!

I’d also be super interested to know what you think of the framing with my details. I’ve become much more sensitive to copyright and image sharing issues since I started working digitally a large proportion of the time – when there’s no physical original the image on the screen is all you’ve got to show and keep for your efforts.

I’ve been resisting anything that distracts from full enjoyment of images such as posting in low resolution or adding watermarks but I know some people do that and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you’re having a great day so far and get chance to relax with the things you like doing most.

For me it’s been a bit more digital sketching:

A shiny red disco bauble with a pearl string and lights in the tree for Christmas day. Branching out (ha ha) from the “pencil” and “fineliner” brushes I’ve been keeping to until now, here I tried various types of paint, spiky texture for the fir needles and a very exciting and effective glow brush for the fairy lights.



This is a steam lawnmower. Apparently the status symbol of its day!

Today I joined the Reading Sketchers at the Museum of English Rural Life. I’ve walked past a few times but never made it inside til today. It’s much bigger than I thought and there was lots to see and do. I could tell it was going to be good as I walked up and saw the awesome yarn bomb entrance:

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Outside is a nice big garden with natural sculptures and a big tractor (for children…) to play on. Inside is crammed full of farm machinery and history, as well as a gallery of ladybird books. There’s stuff to watch and play with and a learning room that looked like it might have stuff for dressing up. Plus the usual museum cafe and shop (filled with more brilliant knitted and crocheted things).

It was tempting to sit outside in the sun and draw the building itself but I thought that I should really try and tackle some of the machinery since I wasn’t likely to find anything like it to draw elsewhere. Wonderfully, there was a rack of stools at the entrance to the gallery (all museums, please do this and encourage people to draw your stuff!). I took one and wandered around looking for a good spot. Red and green was a definite theme running through all the machinery and eventually I settled on a steam lawnmower tucked away at the back. Below you can see my favourite bit of this device – some sort of crazy, loopy, spring loaded gauge – reminds me of the stuff in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory :)

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Museums don’t usually allow wet media to be used inside so I prepared the watercolour background at home and just sketched using fountain pen, grey marker for the shadows, some red and green pencil/pastel things and a white gel pen for a couple of highlights at the end.

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Everyone was attracted by something different and we had lots of nice sketches at the end. I’d definitely like to visit again, to draw some more, but also just to look around generally at everything on show.

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Diabolo Menthe

A house plant illustration for this week’s colour collective colour, Diabolo Menthe **cough ** cough turquoise ** cough **

This is turquoise and green gold watercolour and sepia acrylic ink with a dip pen. I got some nice texture in the watercolour by being impatient and dabbing the puddles with a tissue instead of letting them dry naturally. I couldn’t do that with the ink though and it took a really long time to dry (compared to my regular fountain pen ink anyway). I even smudged it a bit in places as I didn’t realise it was still so wet after 10 minutes.




A sketch of some interesting squash for today’s inktober and this week’s colour collective – Scheveningen orange. These were very striking squash with a hard line separating the orange part from the green part. Crazy that something could grow that way. I can’t find what it is – I thought it might be a zephyr but they seem to always be long and smooth…




I’ve been feeling very uninspired and unsatisfied with everything recently. Generally everything in life but particularly anything I’ve tried to make or paint or create. It was a struggle to even muster the enthusiasm to sketch this little pencil sharpener and I almost didn’t post it but I’m way behind on the inktober challenge and this also satisfies the colour collective prompt for this week of glaucous blue so here you go.



I planned ahead for this week’s colour collective. The colour is cardinal red and I planned to sketch either a bus or a postbox while I was in London for a meeting earlier in the week. But time escaped me and I ended up through and out of the city with no red paint splashed. Just as iconically red is a Heinz ketchup bottle and so that’s what we’ve ended up with. An A5 page of a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, drawn on location while eating a burger at the pub opposite the station :)

I do very much like red paint. This is a mixture of cadmium red and magenta Windsor and Newton watercolours but then tweaked a bit in Photoshop as it scanned in a little washed out. The variations in opacity and patterns and blooms are much more intricate and interesting on the real thing but this is still nice. It was very wet and I had to walk half way home holding it open as I walked until all the puddles evaporated.





Another trial with the fude fountain pen today. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. It was nice to be able to switch between fine lines and block shadows without skipping a beat. Next I’d like to try and get variability into single strokes if I can. I’d like to try it out on an urban landscape scene – I think lots of vertical lines would suit this pen well.

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I added colour via pencils and pastels as I don’t think the sample ink that came with the pen is waterproof. When I’ve used all this I have some waterproof ink I can try.

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dead daffodils



A new pen arrived today – a fude fountain pen – the tip is bent at an angle so you can draw thick through thin with the same stroke. Sort of like a calligraphy pen but not quite. It’s a pretty cheap pen but seems to do the job for what I want – it’s a 55 degree Sailor pen and you can see a good review here.

I’ve got the hang of either end of the spectrum – chunky fat lines and tiny spindly lines are easy – I just need to get some sort of transition and medium thickness going :)

It’s a very long pen so I’m wondering about holding it more like a paint brush than a writing pen. Watch this space…


A train with a view


On Wednesday I spent 45 minutes squished in a train vestibule (lobby? doorway? that bit between carriages…) at a standstill in Paddington station. I sat on the floor and tried to not be hot. This wasn’t terribly successful so I drew my view. I was actually sat next to the window but the view out of that was just of the flat metal of another train within touching distance.

Kalabaka & Meteora

I had planned on posting sketches daily as I travelled around Greece. However, the WordPress app was not up to the job. Even when I had a good internet connection the app just wouldn’t upload images. Very frustrating and I gave up after the first few days. The bright side though is that I can now scan in my sketches rather than just posting photos. I can also try to give some more detailed info about the places I visited.

Our first stop was the town of Kalabaka and visits to two monasteries perched on top of the surrounding Meteora Hills.

The town was ok, nothing special and fairly touristy but a pleasant place and surrounded by the Meteora Hills which were great to sketch. Everywhere in Greece seemed to have great views.

We then visited two of the six Meteora monasteries which were perched on top of huge pillars of rock. The idea being that they would be closer to God.


Building them and living in them was quite a challenge though – goods and people moving up and down on a system of ropes and pulleys. We were told that the monk’s belief in God’s plan for each person meant that they only replaced old, frayed ropes when they actually snapped – if God decides it’s your time to go then who are you to fight against his will with health and safety inspections…. Thankfully we had (many many) stairs to get up there instead.


Once at the top the views were stunning and the monasteries themselves very interesting with an ornate church, various relics, skulls of the monks who devoted their lives there (I guess there would be nowhere they could be buried on top of the rocks) and museums full of religious artefacts, ancient texts and priest’s robes.

No photography in the museum but no one objects to pencil and paper so I spent some time sketching one of the many ornate crosses on display. Generally these were about the size of your hand or smaller – religious scenes carved into wood and then decorated with gold and silver and gem stones. Some were crazily over the top and had magnifying glasses nearby so you could study the details.

meteora cross

burning the midnight oil

oil burner

I’m working this bank holiday Monday because it’s crazy busy at the moment and I’m off on a little holiday soon. I’d like to leave things in a good situation so that I can relax and forget all about work while I’m away. This little oil burner sits on the windowsill next to my desk releasing cinnamon smelling goodness throughout the day.

About this sketch:

  • Materials: 0.5mm HB pencil, watercolours & size 10 round brush
  • Paper: cheap A3 150gsm sketchpad paper
  • Process: I was actually pleasantly surprised by this paper – it took watercolour rather well. Sucked it up almost instantly and there could be no lifting out or manipulation but it handled several layers with ease – not much buckling and the surface texture kept in good condition. The whole thing took around 35 minutes with a 10 minute twitter break to let the first pass dry. ~5 mins drawing, ~15mins painting. Larger than I normally work.

crystal decanter

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glass is a fascinating thing to paint. It really forces you to ignore the object and concentrate only on the abstract shapes and colours. If you try to paint what you think you see then it all goes horribly wrong. Zooming in and putting a blog of yellow here, then a blue line there creates the exact glass structure you wanted when you step back. The same could be said of painting any subject I suppose but I notice it most on ‘difficult’ scenes. As I become more familiar with a subject (folded fabric for example) it becomes more natural to see and paint the blobs of colour but for unfamiliar things like glass I have to work hard to see those blobs. Painting like this reminds me of termites and how no single termite knows how to build a mound. Each insect just does their tiny piece, zoomed in, and the grand intricate structure emerges.

Murder, Margaret and Me

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In a couple of months I’ll be exhibiting some art at Progress Theatre in Reading for their production of Murder, Margaret and Me. It is the story of why neither Agatha Christie nor Margaret Rutherford wanted Margaret to play Miss Marple on the big screen.

I haven’t decided on the exact form and content of the art I will do for this yet (several ideas are swirling around at the moment) but one definite piece will be the painting above. I was asked to do an illustration featuring various elements from the play in a style inspired by the book covers of Tom Adams for the posters.

This is not a way I’m used to working and it was an interesting process. Some elements, such as drawing with only half relevant reference images (not quite the style of teacup I wanted or objects from the wrong angles…) and no physical objects was very challenging but on the other hand, having complete freedom with composition and lighting was really great.

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at the airport


Here is the obligatory sketch of a plane while waiting around in departures. My flight was bang on time and my seat the first called so I had to leave this slightly unfinished – I would have liked to have added shadows and some of the buildings and trucks in the background.

A bonus 10 points for anyone who can name the airline from the colours and logo without looking it up :)

Sketch roundup: everyday objects


My holiday starts today :)

My posts are usually scheduled a few days in advance – I do the majority of my creating and blogging at the weekend and then I try to spread out the posts over the following week. Over Christmas and New Year I’m going to be travelling a lot and busy seeing family and friends and eating. Lots of eating. So I’m scheduling posts for a little longer than usual and then any sketches I do over the holidays can be blogged in January.

I used to have a blog called Artistic Adventures and some of the holiday posts, like this one, will be paintings that I originally blogged over there. That site doesn’t exist any more so it’s nice to be able to dig out some of these paintings and drawings. Other posts will be crochet patterns for items that I made as Christmas presents and couldn’t blog until after the lucky recipient opens their gift in case they saw it online and spoiled the surprise.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday, are able to find some time to relax and some time to be creative. See you all in 2017!

Here is a little round up of sketches that feature everyday objects, drawn from life:




plant against yellow wall

I always used to wonder why paintings in museums had such dull names – “woman 3”, “man in red hat” – but now I realise when you’re just sketching the things around you and often the same things multiple times you’re not thinking about names, anything that distinguishes it from the others is fine. Paintings in museums are often artists’ sketches and preliminary works and they will have just had any old name to catalogue them. I’ve drawn this plant quite a few times now and you run out of names very quickly :)


on film


I’ve been at a conference today and in one of the seminar sessions I found myself sitting at the back next to some serious film camera kit. So many buttons and wires and dials and twiddly things and it was all black. black on black. and then you keep looking and you start to see different shades of black. I like drawing machinery and tech equipment.

All the fun of the fair

Whether it was coming or going I don’t know, but this packed up fair ground ride on a trailer was by the side of the road and I knew I wanted to draw it. Probably it was coming since I think it’s half term this week – plenty of people looking for things to entertain their children. It seems like there is always a fair somewhere in Reading at all times, like it circles around the parks and fields endlessly. I wonder what this ride is when it’s built and how long it takes to put together.

St Laurence’s fountain

Day four of world watercolour month brings this painting of a stone fountain that caught my eye on the wall of St Laurence’s church in Reading town centre. I drew the sketch on location on Saturday but became frustrated that it wasn’t going as I liked so I gave up pretty quickly. I did take a quick snap of the fountain in the sun though and came back to the sketch today. The resolution to paint every day this month is definitely the only reason I picked up a brush today and I’m glad I did. I really like this and the tight crop removes the worst of the sketching oddities.

ten denotative matches

I just started a free online graphic design course – Fundamentals of Graphic Design. Week one is an intro to image making and the assignment was to create 10 denotative images (literal representations) of an everyday object. The idea was to focus on process, iteration and generating lots of images in myriad different ways, using different media and tools, representing different views, angles, zoom levels and states of the object. I chose a match as my object and here are my images:

match 10 Continue reading “ten denotative matches”